Again, tension is brewing in Warri, Delta State, 12 days after the coronation of the new Olu of Warri, Ogiame Atuwatse III.
The monarch had on Tuesday sacked the traditional council he inherited from his predecessors, a development LEADERSHIP Friday learnt has ignited anxiety in the city.
In a deft move widely interpreted as a ploy to disrobe some traditional title holders opposed to his selection and coronation as the Itsekiri monarch, Ogiame Atuwatse ordered an immediate dissolution of the traditional council in his domain.
He asked all the traditional chiefs to come forward to renew the titles awarded to them by his predecessors.
Some stakeholders felt that the step was targeted at stripping the Ologbotsere of Warri, Chief Ayirimi Emami, and others of their traditional titles because they opposed his emergence as the Itsekiri monarch.
Already, the Ologbotsere family has vowed that Emami would not appear before the monarch to renew his title.
The family said the monarch’s action was subjudice since his emergence and subsequent coronation on August 21, 2021, is being challenged in courts by the Ologbotesere.
The Ologbotsere family said Emami’s appearance before the monarch could be interpreted as an endorsement and in accordance with an undeserved recognition and legitimacy to the monarch.
The Ologbotsere is an influential and prestigious title in Warri and its holder is next in command to a reigning Itsekiri monarch. He also heads the council of chiefs.
Emami, who led the opposition against Atuwatse III, was suspended as Ologbotsere by a faction of the Ginuwa 1 ruling house, which endorsed the new monarch.
Emami had insisted that the emergence of the monarch contravened the spirit and letters of the Traditional Rulers and Chiefs Edict, 1979, the customary law regulating the succession to the title of the Olu of Warri.
The embattled Ologbotsere and the first son of the immediate past traditional ruler of the area, Ogiame Ikenwoli, Prince Oyowoli Emiko, who also made claim to the throne, had initiated legal actions at separate Delta State high courts in Asaba and Warri, to remove the new king.
Speculations were rife that Emami and other chiefs considered to have worked against the emergence of Ogiame Atuwatse III, may lose the titles awarded to them by past Itsekiri monarchs in the latest move by Ogiame Atuwatse III.
Impeccable sources in the palace said other chiefs being targeted by the monarch are the Otsodi of Warri, Chief Isaac Jemide; Omokun of Warri, Chief Akoma Dundun Dimeyin; Akulagba of Warri, Chief Samuel Omamuli and Olorogun of Warri, Chief Michael Odeli, among others.
Atuwatse in the statement he personally signed, dated Wednesday, September 1, 2021, said, “Pursuant to Itsekiri custom and tradition regarding the powers conferred on me as the Olu of Warri and by virtue of provisions of section 25 of Delta State Traditional Rulers Council and Chiefs Law, Cap T.2 Laws of Delta State of Nigeria, 2008, I, Ogia Atuwatse III, the Olu of Warri, hereby announce, for the information of the general public, Delta State government and particularly, traditional rulers and chiefs committees; the dissolution of all traditional councils, committees, sub-committees and the scheduled exercise of revalidation/reconfirmation of chieftaincy titles effective from the 2nd September, 2021.
“For the avoidance of doubts, the Warri Council of Chiefs, the Olu Advisory Council (Ojoye Ojisan), the Olu in Council, all standing, ad-hoc and sub-committees are hereby dissolved forthwith, the mandatory revalidation/reconfirmation of chieftaincy titles shall commence on the 2nd September, 2021.
“The timetable for the revalidation and confirmation exercise shall be made available at the Palace Secretariat from September 1, 2021 and the process of registration of all chieftaincy titles with the prescribed authorities in accordance with the provisions of section 25 of Delta State Traditional Rulers Council and Chiefs Law, (supra) shall follow immediately after the revalidation and reconfirmation exercise.”
Reacting, spokesman of Ologbotsere Descendants Worldwide, Comrade Alex Eyengho, said Emami will not appear before Atuwatse III to renew his title.
Eyengho, in a message he sent to LEADERSHIP, said, “Should Chief Ayiri Emami go for reconfirmation/revalidation exercise? I don’t think he will do that because he is in court challenging the entire process that brought Atuwatse III as the 21st Olu of Warri. Doing that will be subjudice and seen as an endorsement of what he is challenging in court.
“Also, some people believe that the whole sudden move was targeted at the Ologbotsere of Warri kingdom, Chief Ayirimi Emami and all the Chiefs perceived to be loyal to him. Personally, I am persuaded to key into this line of thought.
“To the best of my knowledge as a student of Itsekiri history, the tradition of revalidation/reconfirmation of chieftaincy titles by holders under the reign of a new Olu of Warri is not part of our custom and tradition abinitio. It started during the reign of his majesty, Ogiame Atuwatse 11, shortly after his coronation in 1987 when he said he was going to reconfirm the then Ologbotsere of Warri Kingdom, Chief O.N. Rewane and a group of chiefs who were members of the Itsekiri Leaders of Thought.
“Even at that, it was done by Atuwatse unofficially, with no letter or media publication to that effect. When His Majesty Ikenwoli ascended the throne, he made no issue out of this but jokingly told the chiefs he inherited from his predecessors that they should reach out to him as their new husband (in Itsekiriland, chiefs are seen as Olu’s wives). There was nothing official in form of letter, media publication, compulsion or timeline to this. So, this Ogiame is unprecedented,” he said.